1959: A Lesson To Remember

Jeremiah Madrigal, guest writer

“Gary, come in and eat your supper, then we’ll continue the story of the Ugly Beast!”
“Okay Pa,” he exclaimed with joy as the smell of Aunt Judy’s sweet apple pie persuaded his tummy to growl; he was more anxious to hear the story than eat, of course.
After supper was done and our story had ended, I walked seven-year-old Gary up to his room to say his prayers and tuck him in.
“Goodnight son,” I said, slowly closing the door behind me.
“Goodnight Pa!”
That’s the way typical evenings go in the Jordan house. My name is Opie Jordan, and I’m the Sheriff, Justice of the Peace, and a single father in little old Bowling Green, Kentucky. Being that the town is so small, everyone knows each other, so not much crime occurs. The year was 1959, and it had a pretty interesting start for the United States. On January 3, Alaska had been officially admitted as the 49th state. Anyway, today happened to be January 21.
The next morning, I was in the jailhouse sitting behind my desk with my feet propped up and the sounds of Sinatra were serenading my soul, when all of a sudden a young Texan cowboy approached the door ready for a duel.
“Pa, get ready to draw!”
“Alright Gary,” he said lowering his index finger to his side. “We’ll draw on the count on the count of three.”
“Okay Pa! Three… two… one… BANG! BANG! BANG!” The young sharp shooting cowboy did it again.
“Oh, you got me son,” he painfully responded acting as if more than just words came out of that pistol.
After the long morning battle died down, Gary remembered what he stopped by to tell me.
“Pa, you know how my birthday is next month?”
“Of course son. What about it? You figured out what you want yet?”
“Yeah Pa! Earlier this morning I stopped by the old billboard and saw one of the ads say that Daytona Florida is building a racetrack and the first race is on February 22, and that’s the day of my birthday!”
“Son, I’d reckon we can make that happen, long as your a good old boy this next month that is. I think that’s a good idea though! Now run along and go play outside.”
“Thanks Pa, you’re the greatest!” he said as he ran out the door.
Later that afternoon, Deputy Lucas was doing his daily duty and brought in the regular town drunk, Charlie. As usual, he chose to serve the 24-hour term rather than pay the two-dollar fine.
“He was out disturbing the peace again,” Lucas said in a particularly low way.
“What’s the matter Lucas?”
“Well, not that I hate my job, it’s just I wish we could get a little more, you know, action around here.”
“If it weren’t for me, you wouldn’t have a job in the first place.” Charlie said, slurred speech and all. The two of us laughed as Lucas made his way out the door.
As the afternoon rolled by, Aunt Judy brought her wonderful chicken, mashed taters and green beans down to the station. Charlie as usual reached over, grabbed the key, and let himself out so he could have some to eat. After we all finished lunch, the singing of folk songs broke out; I was playing the guitar while Lucas tried to add a tone with his harmonica.
A couple weeks had passed by and Lucas, Gary and I were all down at the fishing hole. Gary and I were on the north side of the hole and Lucas was further south. After a few hours of fishing, we decided to regroup at the patrol car.
“Oh boy, what a good day for fishin’, am I right son?”
“Yeah Pa!” He said with nods that were too big for his own head.
“Look Lucas, two trout and a big old carp. Why, aunt Judy’ll be cookin’ these up in no time! Say Lucas, did you catch anything?”
“Yeah, its nothin’ too glorious.” He responded trying to keep his basket as concealed as possible.
“Oh, come on… show us what you got,” Opie persisted.
“No, no… its really nothin’.”
“Now Lucas, I declare you are being ridiculous, now show us what you got in there.”
“I told you it was nothin’!” He yelled as he handed the basket to me, clearly annoyed and embarrassed.
“Gah-lee, I’ll say that just about the greatest catch I ever did see,” he said as he lifted a frog from out of the basket. “Looks like aunt Judy’s cookin’ frog legs too!”
Moments later, a 1957 Chevrolet Belair whipped past us all going at least 70 in a 35.
“Well there’s the action you’ve been lookin’ for,” I said jokingly; Lucas didn’t seem to find it very amusing.
I ordered everyone to hop in, flipped on the siren and we began our pursuit. Luckily, the pursuit didn’t last long as we slowly rolled to a stop. As I approached the vehicle, I noticed that there was a woman in the drivers seat and her plate read Washington D.C.
“Ma’am, you were going pretty fast for a Washington woman. You know I’m gonna have to write you a ticket and you’ll need to follow me back to the jailhouse.”
“Alright, alright,” she stammered as she took the ticket out of his hand.
When we arrived at the jailhouse, we continued to talk about the situation where I eventually brought up that her fine would be 10-dollars.
“That’s an outrageous price. I declare to have a Mayor’s trial!”
Little did we all know, this lady was a deceitful woman and was really trying to buy as much time to persuade the witnesses that she was really a nice lady and she was innocent.
As the days passed by, her plan eventually worked. Lucas was quickly persuaded when she made him believe he was a handsome, manly man. It was easy for her to get him on her side because it had been the first time he ever felt that way. On the other hand, my son Gary was much easier to persuade. All it took was a baseball signed by the New York Yankees and she was his favorite person in the world.
The day of the trial had finally come. This was finally Opie’s chance to bring forth justice and settle the truth.
“Order, order… this court is now in session. Opie, who would you like to call as your first witness?” The Mayor asked.
“I would like to call my own Deputy Lucas up your honor.” Lucas slowly made his way to the questioning chair. “Lucas, how fast was the defendant going when you saw her?”
“How fast was she going when I saw her?” He softly responded in a puzzled manor. “Now Opie, its hard to say, ‘cause of all the dust and stuff.”
“Come on now Lucas it can’t be that hard. What did my speedometer read when we was chasing her in full pursuit?”
“In full pursuit?” He asked as if he didn’t know what Opie was taking about. “Well, when we were in full pursuit… uh… when we were in full pursuit–”
“Go on now, spit it out,” Opie interrupted.
“When we were in full pursuit, we were going 35.” Opie felt what seemed to be like a state of paralysis standing in front of Lucas. He couldn’t believe what his ears just heard.
“Surely my own son will be able to tell how fast she was going,” Opie said giving Lucas the dirtiest look he’d ever seen. “Now Gary, the other day at the fishing hole, when that car flew past us, how fast would you say it was going?” He was desperate hoping for the right answer.
“What car pa?” He responded simply as if it never happened.
“Not you too son. The blue car that whip–what’s that you got in you hand son?”
“It’s a baseball that that nice lady over there gave me. It’s signed by every single Yankees player.” Opie slowly looked back at the defendant and saw a big grin on her face as she waved back at him.
“I see. I guess it’s not hard to persuade a seven-year old’s mind now is it,” Opie said with great disappointment.
“Based on the evidence of this court, I hereby judge the defendant as not guilty,” the Mayor said as he slammed his wooden pallet. Aunt Judy walked up to Opie to try and cheer him up.
“Oh Opie, I’m so sorry you couldn’t prove her as guilty.”
“Naw, aunt Judy, that’s ok. I’m more disappointed in the fact that neither my very own Deputy nor my son cain’t stand up to tell the truth. Gary, it looks like as punishment you and I won’t be able to go to the race on your Birthday after all.”
Gary was truly speechless as tear after tear flowed down his cheek. He quickly ran up to find affection from aunt Judy where she proceeded to give Gary some advice.
“Gary listen, your father is very disappointed with the way you lied. If I were you, I would apologize and see if he had any sign of grace to change his mind.” After the jailhouse cleared out, all who were left were Gary and Opie.
“What is it son?” He responded in a slightly heated tone.
“Pa, I’m really sorry I lied about the car earlier.” Tears slowly slid down his soft cheeks.
“You know son, I forgive you, and because you told me your sorry, we’ll go to the race after all, but first there’s something you and I should learn from this.”
“Okay Pa, what’s that?”
“Well, when people do things that are offensive and wrong in God’s eyes, you see, that there is a sin. But God has this little thing called grace which is basically like a second chance to start over and all you have to do is say your sorry. Then he will forgive you and make you clean again. So when you said you were sorry, I thought about that little old grace and decided to change my mind.”
“That’s awesome Pa! You know, I love both you and God!”
“I love you too son, and I cain’t wait to go see this race next week. I’ll go buy tickets right now.”
The day had finally come! Gary and I were watching from the front row as the sweet smell of motor oil and racing fuel filled the air. There they came around the track; the race had finally started. You could feel the race cars just as well as you could hear them, and my son surely knew it judging by the smile that stretched from cheek to cheek. It was definitely the best race I had ever witnessed, and “Lee Petty defeats Johnny Beauchamp in a photo finish at the just-opened Daytona International Speedway in Florida to win the first-ever Daytona 500” (history).
Works Cited
history.com. “Lee Petty wins first Daytona 500”, A+E Television Networks, LLC, 2009. www.history.com. 23 Jan. 2018.
All-Time Greatest Stock-Car Finishes. Directed by Marc J. Rauch, Popular Mechanics, GoodTimes Home Video, 1990.
America’s Best History. U.S. Timeline – The 1950s, 2017. americasbesthistory.com. 9 Jan. 2018.
Bobek, Milan, Judith C. Callomon, and Samuel J. Patti. Decades of the 20th Century: 1950’s. Eldorado Ink, 2005. Print.
James and Wendy Graham. Historical Events in 1959, 2017. www.onthisday.com. 9 Jan. 2018